When I graduated from college and entered the business world for the first time (I had studied history – ha!) I found the word "marketing" to be an odious term. I cringed at it and felt much the same way as Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything when he makes his convoluted speech about not wanting to sell, buy, or process anything in the hideous machinery of the corporate life.
But the reality is that life is a long series of sales presentations. The best way to sell yourself, of course, is to just be yourself. But on the Internet, if no one knows who you are you won't have the opportunity to make the pitch.
So how can you be yourself on the Internet while getting the word out to others about how great you are? Ah, that's where even stranger terms apply, "viral marketing" and "social media marketing" and such.
A piece that came out today called Social Media Marketing for Small Business has some great tips for anyone who simply wants to be heard and enter the great Internet conversation via blog or small business website or what have you.
I'll run through a few of them. Most of it is common sense, but it's also good sense.
Comment on other blogs
If you're going to become a great crime fiction novelist, you absolutely must become an expert on the legends of the genre, know who made the rules and then broke them, and who are simply pulp-writing hacks. On the Internet, you have to know who is in your "space," who are the best at it, and who are the most popular. That learning process will help you to hone your own knowledge and help you to figure out how to create the best possible content or experience for your visitors.
One of the great things about the Internet is that you have the opportunity to meet and interact with people while you get your learn on.
Another great tip for aspiring writers is that if you want to be a great writer, you need to read a lot and write a lot. On the Internet, that can be modified to: you need to read a lot and write a lot and comment a lot. Commenting says a lot about who you are, how professionally you present yourself, how easily you mix with and play with others in a visual medium, and most importantly allows you to show off that you have something interesting and pertinent to add to a conversation.
Like real life conversation, commenting and interacting with other commenters is an art form. Do it in the right places and do it well and people will take notice. Do it well enough and the "legends of the genre" will take notice, and then you're on your way to being a player.
I'm not a huge fan of StumbleUpon, but plenty of people rave about how much traffic it can bring you. Nonetheless, social bookmarking and social news sites can be invaluable ways of getting the word out. Digg, Reddit, Netscape, and del.icio.us are all great places to submit stories. Of course, it helps to have friends around to vote/submit for you as a single person does not have great power to drive attention on those sites.
Mailing lists and RSS are also extremely important. The more you can do to make sure people that have somehow found you and are interested in what you have to say/sell can easily find you again, the better. If you're ambitious enough, collect contact names and send out newsletter announcements or press releases.
Join groups & mailing lists
Again, this is a vital way to stay informed and join conversations. Getting hooked up with a good RSS reader and piping in both those "legends of the genre" and a bunch of other smaller but interesting fish let's you stay up-to-the-second.
Joining groups can be helpful but it should be something you're genuinely interested in investing some time in. People can smell spam from a mile away so it's not advisable to pop in and say, "Hey, check out my site, it's like super awesome!" Likewise, when you leave comments anywhere, it should be in service of the conversation and not merely a thinly veiled ploy to drive attention to your site and yourself. But if you get and stay involved with the right group, you will be able to develop a loyal group of online supporters.
The Internet is not like television. No one will know when a new "Internet channel" comes on the air unless you get on peoples' radars and give them a compelling reason to spend their limited time on you.
That's why marketing is not such a terrible thing, actually. It's simply spreading the word.